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Full text of "Authority and the individual"

AUTHORITY   AND   THE   INDIVIDUAL
tive. He could elect executive officers, including
generals, and could get them condemned if they
displeased a majority. The number of citizens was
small enough for each man to feel that he counted,
and that he could have a significant influence by
discussion with his acquaintance. I am not suggesting
that this system was good on the whole; it had, in
fact, very grave disadvantages. But in the one respect
of allowing for individual initiative it was very
greatly superior to anything that exists in the modern
world.
Consider, for purposes of illustration, the relation
of an ordinary taxpayer to an admiral. The taxpayers,
collectively, are the admiral's employers. Their
agents in Parliament vote his pay, and choose the
government which sanctions the authority which
appoints the admiral. But if the individual taxpayer
were to attempt to assume towards the admiral the
attitude of authority which is customary from em-
ployer to employee, he would soon be put in his
place. The admiral is a great man, accustomed to
exercising authority; the ordinary taxpayer is not.
In a lesser degree the same sort of thing is true
throughout the public services. Even if you only wish
to register a letter at a Post Office, the official is in
a position of momentary power; he can at least decide
when to notice that you desire attention. If you want
anything more complicated, he can, if he happens
to be in a *bad humour, cause you considerable
annoyance; he can send you to another man, who
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